The red-colored yeast Monascus purpureus is a traditional Chinese food coloring and herbal remedy. It has been used medicinally in China for at least several hundred years and has been a food ingredient for about 2000 years. The yeast is grown on wet white rice, which becomes permeated with the colored yeast. The resulting red rice is dried and pulverized and the powder sold as a traditional remedy for promoting blood circulation, soothing upset stomach, and for other medical purposes.Modern RYR supplements are usually extracts of Red Yeast Rice unneeded starches and gums have been removed to make the powdered product more potent, less perishable, and easily dosed. The Chinese name for such extracted RYR products is Xue Zhi Kang aka Xuezhikang .Red yeast rice is a dietary staple in many Asian countries, including China and Japan, with typical consumption ranging from 14 to 55 g/person/day 0.5 to 2 oz . This substance could plausibly account for the low level of cardiovascular disease found in Asian populations.
How RYR affects cardiovascular disease
RYR inhibits the bodys synthesis of cholesterol
RYR inhibits the bodys production of C-Reactive Protein
The dried yeast contains a family of compounds monacolins that inhibit HMG-CoA reductase an enzyme responsible for making cholesterol in the body . These inhibitors are similar in chemical structure to the expensive statin drugs that are sold as prescription remedies for high cholesterol. In addition, the red yeast contains a variety of other medically active compounds, including flavonoids and sterols, that may contribute to the yeasts cholesterol-regulating activity.
The monacolins in RYR also suppress the bodys production of C-Reactive Protein CRP . CRP is a protein involved in inflammation, and inflammation is considered to be the primary process that causes plaques to develop in arteries. By suppressing CRP, red yeast rice appears to be helping to suppress the inflammation responsible for atherosclerosis.
The efficacy of RYR
Ten or more clinical studies of RYR have been performed; all have shown that RYR supplementation brings about significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides reductions of at least 30% are achievable in patients with high lipid levels. HDL good cholesterol increased slightly in at least one study. In a 2003 animal study an extract of RYR actually reduced the size of atherosclerotic plaques in arteries.
No clinical studies have directly compared RYR and statin drugs with regard to their maximum potential for improving cholesterol profiles. The results found in separate studies, however, have convinced clinical researchers that RYR is at least as effective as statin drugs, while causing far fewer side effects. Why should this be? The explanation usually given is that the dose of lovastatin provided by RYR supplements is far less than the dose used in prescription lovastatin drugs consequently RYR users typically experience no lovastatin side effects. As for efficacy the small size of the lovastatin dose provided by RYR is more than made up for by the presence of small amounts of various other substances which dramatically enhance this supplements effectiveness.
Miscellaneous facts about RYR
In a recent experiment with rabbits, a profound suppression of atherosclerosis development was achieved by a supplement combination consisting of RYR, policosanol, and the carotenoid astaxanthin the red substance in salmon and shellfish .
Vitamin E has many of the same effects on cardiovascular disease as RYR, as has been shown in a number of clinical trials. But vitamin E acts through a different mechanism than RYR. It therefore makes sense to use these two supplements together to take advantage of synergistic effects.
RYR, like the statin drugs, suppresses the bodys levels of CoQ10 coenzyme Q10, a substance required for metabolism . Users of RYR should therefore also use aCoQ10 supplement.
Pregnant women should avoid using RYR or any statin drug.
Sudden termination of RYR usage can have a significant rebound effect on C-Reactive Protein, LDL and HDL. The same is true for statin drugs. RYR users who want to stop using RYR especially those with severe cardiovascular disease should therefore reduce the dosage of RYR gradually over a period of about a week.
Contraindications for lovastatin pregnancy, nursing, liver or kidney impairment, co-administration with niacin, gemfibrozil, cyclosporin, azole antifungals, erythromycin, clarithromycin, nefazodone, protease inhibitors.